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We are Only Guests in Samsara

逆境来时莫动嗔
When adversities arrive, do not give rise to aversion,
西方佛子等疏亲
[As] Aspirants of the Western Pureland (Disciples of Amitabha Buddha) [should] see the distant and close as equal, [or ‘(As) In the Western Pureland, Amitabha Buddha and his children await for both the estranged (strangers and enemies) and familiar (relatives and friends).’]
我今暂作娑婆客
[Since] I am for now, temporarily being a guest in the Saha World [Samsara],
不久莲池会上人
[Who will] Before long, be meeting superior beings at the Lotus Pond Assembly.

Notes (1):

[The above is a wonderful ancient poem to share.] When adverse situations arise, even if they seem ‘unreasonable’, Pure Land practitioners should not give rise to anger – by practising to see all beings in the Saha word as equal – since anger arises only when we do not practise equanimity. To facilitate this, we should remember that we are just passing guests of Samsara, who should not hanker on or be attached and angry over petty matters such as wealth, relations, reputation. Just as we are passing guests, these gains are passing ones too. As our true destination is Pureland, we are not here to stay for good. There is thus no need to be too serious or worked up over mundane issues – which might even impede us from being born in Pureland.

Notes (2):

Whenever we face adverse circumstances, it is important to minimise the rise of aversion or the bearing of any hatred, because this can habitually create negative karma, which then leads to further obstacles in this life, or even impede peaceful rebirth in Pure Land during our last moments. Likewise, whenever we have favourable worldly conditions, we should not give rise to attachment, lest we are unable to let them go when we have to.

There is also no need to be frustrated with adversities because when our Faith, Aspiration and Practice (Three Provisions) associated with birth in Pure Land are strong, we should simply see ourselves to be transient guests of Samsara, who are just presently passing through, who will shortly after, by the end of this life, be gathering with the most excellent assembly of spiritual friends in Pureland. Thus, even great mundane difficulties become trivial and not worth hankering after.

‘Making a vow to attain birth in the Pure Land signifies a fundamental reorientation of the believer’s motivations and will. No longer is the purpose of life brute survival, or fulfillment of a social role, or the struggle to wrest some satisfaction from a frustrating, taxing environment. By vowing to be reborn in the Pure Land, believers shift their focus. The joys and sorrows of this world become incidental, inconsequential. The present life takes on value chiefly as an opportunity to concentrate one’s awareness [mindfulness] on Amitabha, and purify one’s mind accordingly.’ (J.C. Cleary)

The pure and great community that awaits us in Pure Land includes many Bodhisattvas, who can inspire us to develop spiritually with their boundless compassion and wisdom. It is crucial to see ourselves as guests; and not hosts of Samsara, lest we become attached to it, which would make birth in Pure Land difficult. When we return to Samsara after training well, it would be when we will naturally and rightfully feel ‘at home’ and at ease, as we become much more capable in our attempts to help other beings still in suffering.

In the Western Paradise (Pure Land) of Amitabha Buddha (who is like a loving father:弥陀慈父)), we are all spiritual children (sons and daughters of the Buddha who are Bodhisattvas-in-training), who will eventually ‘grow up’ to become Buddhas under his guidance. Even before we reach Pure Land, Amitabha Buddha and the other Bodhisattvas there already beckon and welcome us to join them, be we strangers, relatives or friends!

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!